Chris Woodhull Speaks in Class

A city council member by the name of Chris Woodhull spoke in my JEM 315 class this morning. His first question was whether or not anyone was interested in politics. I was the first to spout my opinion with the words “politics is glorified high school.”
Chris does not think so. To Chris, politics is a voice, a motion, an opportunity to take action for something one believes in. The political world opened up to Chris after the death of his friend and Tribe One co-founder Danny.
Tribe One is a Christian ministry program trying to “inspire the intelligent youth” and to “listen to the urban youths finding themselves in bad situations.” Both worked hard to help the poor area in Knoxville, and soon Danny took one more step by running for city council. Though at a disadvantage in political experience, Danny beat his eight year incumbent competitor to hold a seat in the city council.
His victory was short-lived, however, when he died of bone cancer. Chris took the reins and ran for city council in 2003. Despite his opponent’s 24 year experience advantage and name recognition to boot, Chris won the seat with a 68 percent vote.
Chris had used his position to work for the Supportive Residential project, a very touchy subject on both sides of the argument. The idea behind the project is to take the chronically homeless, those who consume 70 percent of the city’s resources such as hospital services, off the street and into residential areas as well as receive help from case workers and hospital care at their doorstep. The goal should benefit everyone in the city, some council members hope.
However, not everyone sees eye to eye on the subject. As he spoke to the class, Chris’s cell phone buzzed with a text message urging him to vote down the Lakeshore project, as it is called.
“I am in the middle on this one,” he said. “On the one side you’ve got people who are uninformed on what is going on so they fall back on ideas in their head of what to expect, which is usually chaos. On the other hand, MCP needs to get on board and figure out exactly what they want to do.”
Throughout his talk, I found myself more intrigued at each of his mentions of politics. Chris is the modern day Mr. Smith in a sea of Senator Paines, working toward the betterment of society rather than the rise of his own position. He even admitted that he is probably not suited for politics.
“But I do believe in change,” he said, quoting Vaclav Have from The Art of the Impossible, “Politics is not disreputable, but people are disreputable, and politics is the easiest position to fall into disrepute.”
I looked at my classmates and thought of those words. According to sociologist Michael Schudson, we as future journalists are part of the “fourth branch of government, the watchdogs that patrol the thin moral line the rest of government sometimes crosses.” In being watchdogs of our government, we cannot confuse the wrongdoings of politics with the integrity of Politics.

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